by Mike Potter
BANK OF AMERICA STADIUM/CHARLOTTE N.C. State looks to put some icing on the proverbial cake tonight.
The Wolfpack (7-5), which won three of four games in spectacular fashion in November to become bowl-eligible under pressure, will take on Big East co-champion Louisville (7-5) in front of a big partisan crowd in the Belk Bowl.
Both teams come in hot, as Louisville has won five of its last six.
It’s the second time State has appeared in a bowl game in Charlotte, as the Wolfpack blanked South Florida 14-0 in the then-Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2005.
State coach Tom O’Brien is 7-2 all-time in bowl games — 1-1 with the Wolfpack — and the Wolfpack is 13-11-1 in all-time bowl action.
State gets it done, holding on for a 31-24 win before 58,427.
The Wolfpack scores on its first possession, going 69 yards in 14 plays following a Terrell Manning interception of a Teddy Bridgewater pass with Niklas Sade adding the kick.
Louisville retaliates late in the quarter, with Bridgewater going in from eight yards out three plays after Adrian Bushell recovers a fumble by punter Wil Baumann at the State 5.
The Cardinals then make it 10-7 on a 32-yard Chris Philpott field goal with 6:07 left in the half before Glennon turns on his lightning machine.
He hits Tobais Palmer on a 35-yard scoring strike with Sade’s conversion making it 14-10 at 4:03. Then with 1:35 left in the period he connects with T.J. Graham on a 68-yard scoring pass, with Graham eluding the grasps of three defenders along the way. Sade makes it 21-10 at the half.
Sade makes it 24-10 with 8:04 left in the third on a 34-yard field goal, the drive aided by a pair of 15-yard penalties on fourth down.
David Amerson then adds more fireworks for the Wolfpack, picking off his ACC record 12th pass of the season and returning it 65 yards for a TD. Sade makes it 31-10 at 6:39.
Louisville responds on its next possession, going 71 yards in 10 plays with Bridgewater hitting Nade Nord from two yards out. Philpott’s kick makes it 31-17.
The Cardinals cut it to 31-24 with 3:55 left on Bridgewater’s two-yard pass to Josh Bellamy and Philpott’s try, but State covers the onside kick.
Louisville gets the ball back with 1:35 to go, but Amerson gets his second interception at the State 16 in the closing seconds.
Glennon is named MVP after completing 21 of 33 for 264 yards and a TD with one interception. Graham catches seven passes for 116 yards and two TDs.
Bridgewater completes 24 of 43 for 274 with two touchdowns and three interceptions, five completions to Bellamy for 98 yards and the TD.
They said it …
O’Brien: “The game went how we thought it would. I thought for sure looking at Louisville on tape and how we matched up with them the game would probably go down to the last play, which it did. We were fortunate enough to make plays to win the game.”
Louisville coach Charlie Strong: “You can't give up big plays. When we have the opportunity to make big plays we have to go out and make them, and that's what we didn't do.”
Glennon: “The first catch (from Tobais Palmer) was probably the best catch I’ve seen all year and then T.J. (Graham) had about three guys miss him (on his 68-yard TD catch). Those are big plays and a quarterback’s favorite thing.”
Graham: “I came to N.C. State because of Mike Glennon. I decided to commit once he said he was coming here. He slings the ball around. I knew it wasn’t going to be much of a hiccup after Russell (Wilson) left with Mike coming into the game.”
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack put an exclamation point on its season and things look very bright for next year.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Graham’s 68-yard TD catch.
Louisville leads 3-1.
State: Won 3.
Louisville: Lost 1.